Kelly's Reviews > The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
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Mar 16, 09

bookshelves: fiction

** spoiler alert ** The Brief History of the Dead had a fantastic premise but ultimately failed to deliver. In this book, there is the earth and the living and there is a city of the recently dead. The dead stay "alive" in this city as long as there are living people on earth who remember them. Once everyone who knows you dies, then you pass on to the final death.

I loved the idea of the city of the living dead and I thought there was some great writing on it. "What kind of heaven had the blasting of garbage trucks in the morning, and chewing gum on the pavement, and the smell of fish rotting by the river? What kind of hell, for that matter, had bakeries and dogwood trees and perfect blue days that made the hairs on the back of your neck rise on end?" (p. 7) But Brockmeier doesn't linger on the idea of the city of the living dead for very long. A plague (which was indirectly started by Coca-Cola) is killing off the entire population of the earth, and the city of the living dead is emptying out. Eventually, only Laura Byrd, a scientist who was on a publicity stunt expedition to Antarctica, is left alive on earth and only the people she knew are "alive" in the city.

This should have been a character driven story, and it turns into a disappointing thriller. I felt like Brockmeier wasted way too much time on Laura's struggle for survival. We know already she's going to die and there is no tension to it, because in this universe, we know that there is life after death. Then in the city of the dead half of the book, he spreads the story out between too many characters and I didn't develop a strong connection to any of them so I couldn't feel any sense of worry about their final deaths. And we never get to find out what happens after the final death, which was the biggest rip-off of all.
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